By Stephen Ubanna
Barely a week after The Value News did a story on COVID 19: An Unusual Era of Anti-smuggling and Revenue generation for the government where The Magazine stated that the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, FOU, Zone A, appear to have slowed down its anti-smuggling drive, paving the way for the Comptroller General of Customs , CGC, Strike Force, Lagos Zonal office, Coordinated by Adba Kakudi, an acting Deputy Comptroller, to step in, Usman Yahaya, the Command Acting Area Comptroller and his boys are back on track.
Unknown to many Yahaya and his boys had a working agenda to make an earth shaking seizure that could surprise critics. The Magazine learnt that the Customs acting Comptroller had deployed various patrol Teams to police Ogun , described as the home of smugglers with a mandate that no Contraband should be allowed to enter into the Nigerian market.
The Teams were said to have gone into work in the last four months combing the nooks and crannies of the state to clip the wings of smugglers on the bud. The fallout was the seizure of Contraband valued at about N12.7 billion, between January and April, 2020. The seizure of the multi-billion Contraband by the Command in four months may have forced Kakudi and his Patrol Team leaders to go back to the drawing board to restrategise on how to deal with smugglers in the south west geo-political region.
Jerry Attah, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs and the Command Spokes person who could not allow the laudable efforts of the Patrol Teams to go unpublicised was said to have got the approval of the Acting Comptroller to issue a Statement that was well publicized in both print, electronic and online mediums.
Attah confirmed that one of the Patrol Teams had intercepted the vehicle under the guise of going on essential duty but carrying thousands of cartons of smuggled poultry products from Benin republic into the Nigerian Market. The smugglers may have beaten all the security Checkpoints mounted by the Customs and other security agencies personnel on the road to enter the Ijebu Ode Expressway.
They were, however, unlucky to have played into the hands of another FOU Team at Ijebu Ode. The FOU, Zone A, spokesperson disclosed that the Ijebu-Ode Team were able to intercept the disguised vehicle acting on information. He said the eagle eyed officers who intercepted the vehicle on alleged essential duty were on routine patrol at the ijebu Ode axisis.
It is not surprising why an elated Yahaya described ‘’the officers who made seizure as professional enough to have intercepted the vehicle which was believed to have been used in the environment to smuggle essential Commodities since the outbreak of the Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China emerged Coronavirus.
The Customs Patrol Team which intercepted the vehicle, according to an eyewitness account were shocked at the extent to which the desperate smugglers could go to carry out their nefarious activities.
But Yhaya may have gladdened the heat of Nigerians when he said ‘’We have arrested the vehicle’’, stressing that ” investigation has commenced to get to the root of the criminal activity and unravel those behind it”. This is bad news to other smugglers that are involved in taking such high risk’’ as the Customs Comptroller has vowed to get them.
Notwithstanding the N12.7 billion worth of Contraband which the FOU, Zone A, Acting Comptroller had said were intercepted from smugglers between January and April this year, the Command was said to have also recovered N1.4bn which could have entered into private accounts from underpayments through issuance of demand Notice, DN, voluntary payment of duties on smuggled vehicles without Customs documents and auction of Premium Motor Spirit,PMS, popular , petrol seized from Bunkerers at the Owode axisis of Badagry west local government area. The Comptroller disclosed that the recovered amount had been paid into the Treasury Single Account, TSA, of the government.
Giving a break- down of the seizures that were said to have been made within the four months under review , Yahaya disclosed it was made up of 25 units of fairly used vehicles worth N108million, 5644 cartons of frozen chicken worth N54.1million, 9843 bags of 50kg smuggled parboiled rice worth N130.4million and bundles of textile materials worth N94million .
Other seized items that were made by the Command include , N14million worth of used tyre, 3764 kegs of smuggled vegetables Oil, worth N69.2million, 8,565 litres of petrol and Automotive Gas Oil, AGO, popular, Diesel worth 35million.
Many believe that the Command could have made much more than that quantity of the Petroleum Products from Bunkerers both for the alleged sell out of some officers who were said to be providing security to some of these influential bunkerers who were said to have been giving protection to operators who have strong link in government circles both at the Federal and state levels. This is where Yahaya may have to put a close -watch on the patrol officers at the Gbaji and Owode axisis to avoid dragging the name of the Command to the mud.
Already, the FOU, Zone A, Customs Comptroller has sent a signal to the smugglers operating in the south west that the game is up. “We won’t- relent on our anti-smuggling drive especially at this time that the government is much concerned about the diversification of the economy into other sectors, particular, agriculture to cushion the effect of the drop in the price of Oil in the international market which has affected the government revenue base.
He has also vowed to reduce to the nearest minimum the smuggling activities in the south western states of Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo Oyo and Osun. The seizure of the Contraband from smugglers operating between Benin Republic and Nigerian by the Command in the last four months speaks volume. It gives an insight of the Service should expect from the Command in the next four months from its anti-smuggling operations.